Editor’s Note: This interview is part of a project in which we are exploring women’s relationship with money. Read the first installment here.
For finance expert Stacy Francis, money is an incredibly personal matter.
“I started down the path toward finance because my grandmother was in an abusive marriage that she would not leave … because she didn’t feel comfortable with money,” she says.
Learning about her grandmother’s struggles was a formative experience for Francis — one that ultimately inspired her in 2003 to form Savvy Ladies, a nonprofit organization whose staff is dedicated to giving adult women of all economic strata an education in finance.
She also founded Francis Financial, a fiscal planning firm that works with ultra high-net worth women and couples, that same year.
Indeed, her grandmother’s story is the driving force behind her entire career, including the shifting of her educational focus to finance while at Middlebury College in Vermont. “I realized that her situation could happen to me if I didn’t get smart and learn about money and finances the way that I should,” she says.
Related: Childhood Lessons in Finance
After earning a degree in economics and French — and before becoming an entrepreneur — she worked as an investment banking analyst in New York City, assisting with company buyouts, raising money for debt and other financing processes.
The work left Francis unsatisfied, however. “I was learning about how to prepare a company for sale, but I still didn’t have enough information for myself — I wasn’t even comfortable choosing my 401k.”
She started going to school at night, successfully completing the certified financial planner program at New York University in 2001. Francis says this is “where my passion converged with education … to make a really powerful impact on individuals.” When she started Savvy Ladies a few years later, she decided to make women’s financial education a priority.
Over the years, Savvy Ladies has offered a number of programs and workshops, as well as a free, confidential help line that allows women to call in and work one-on-one with a CFP. “There are so many phenomenal websites out there with great content about finances,” she says. “But there are no other resources out there where a woman can call and get advice about her specific situation.”
The organization also recently launched a new website, and is now hosting a free “Wednesday Wisdom Webinars” series. Each brief, lunchtime talk features finance experts speaking on a wide variety of topics.
And as an individual, Francis has shared her financial knowledge through television appearances on CNBC, PBS, CNN and more, as well as by writing articles for publications such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Going forward, Francis hopes to expand the offerings of Savvy Ladies beyond the confines of the tri-state area. Doing so, she says, will allow the organization to help even more women — the way she wished someone had once helped her family’s beloved matriarch.
“[Our journey so far as an organization has] been amazing. But I’m from Michigan, for example, and we’re not serving people there. We wouldn’t have been serving my grandmother,” she says. “That’s what I think about. That’s what keeps me up at night.”
For all posts from this project, please click here.